The craft’s last data reveal new details about the gas planet’s clouds and rings
JPL-Caltech/NASA, SSI, Cornell Univ.
THE WOODLANDS, Texas — It’s been six months since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunged to its doom in the atmosphere of Saturn, but scientists didn’t spend much time mourning. They got busy, analyzing the spacecraft’s final data.
The Cassini mission ended September 15, 2017, after more than 13 years orbiting Saturn (SN Online: 9/15/17). The spacecraft’s final 22 orbits, dubbed the Grand Finale, sent Cassini into the potentially dangerous region between the gas giant and its rings, and its final orbit sent it directly into Saturn’s atmosphere.
That perspective helped solve mysteries about the planet and its moons that could not be tackled any other way, scientists said March 19 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.